1 in 68: 7 Kid-Approved Books for Tweens with Asperger’s
by Traci Cothran
According to Autism Speaks, 1 in every 68 people today has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), so to say it’s prevalent is an understatement. Many of these children are told of their diagnoses around middle school age, when their eccentricities start to stand out among their peers, and the kids start to wonder why they’re different.
Fortunately, great books exist to help kids of all ages and places on the spectrum, as well as their parents and teachers. It seems like an explosion of research and books are available, but sifting through it all to find the right reads for your special kid can be a challenge.
This list focuses on kid-tested-and-approved titles designed for middle grade “Aspies” (the kids with Asperger’s Syndrome, who are highly functioning). They helped my kid, and I hope they help yours, too! These books speak to the kids in ways Aspies can understand, and inform and instruct them. Because having Autism can be socially isolating, these books also serve the important function of reminding them that they are great, special kids, and they are not alone.
The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (And Their Parents)
This is an informative introduction to ASD, with a lively (but not overwhelming) layout. It explains what ASD is, as well as its challenges, but emphasizes self-acceptance and positivity. It provides practical advice for improving social skills and handling emotions, and I love that it is loaded with stories about other kids’ experiences, so Aspies reading this book don’t feel so isolated.
The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules: The Handbook of Not-so-Obvious Social Guidelines for Tweens and Teens with Asperger Syndrome
This book’s a bit denser, but tweens gobble it up because it explains the many social norms that don’t come naturally for Aspies. There are step-by-step guides to tackling tough situations and “Asperkid Logic” notes that explain confusing language and customs (and why they’re important), all presented in kid-friendly language. Perhaps best of all, this book encourages self-advocacy, which your Aspie can use to help to clarify and diffuse situations when you aren’t around (which every parent worries about). And it’s right on the money: “It tells you things you wouldn’t otherwise know,” my kid reports. Author O’Toole has penned several other books on Autism that are worth checking out, too.
The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a 13-Year-Old Boy with Autism
This short book brilliantly illustrates (in words) how autistic kids view the world — from sight to sound to touch. As a parent, you can begin to understand the ASD point of view through this series of Q&As with this nonverbal 13-year-old boy. For kids on the spectrum, it’s a refreshing chance to “bond” with someone like them, which is incredibly valuable.
Anything but Typical
I really love this book, where readers get inside the head of tween Jason Blake and experience his struggles to get through each day with Autism. This book deftly shows how difficult and challenging this can be, for both kids and their parents. Jason spends his free time writing fiction on the Storyboard website and develops a friendship there (which seems awfully similar to my daughter’s extensive experience on Storybird.com); but when he has to meet one of his online friends in person, things get complicated. This story rings true in so many ways, and I appreciate that author Baskin gives the novel a realistic ending, not a Hollywood-style contrivance.
The Baby-sitters Club and Doll People author Ann M. Martin has created a gorgeous story about homonym-loving Rose Howard and her dog, Rain. Kids will connect with tween Rose and her Aspie ways as well as her troubles connecting to other kids. Things are not always easy for Rose, and when her dog goes missing she must struggle with her emotions and learn to see things from someone else’s viewpoint.
Fifth grader (and Aspie) Caitlin has lost her brother in a horrible school shooting, and she’s rudderless without his guidance in the world. She struggles with her emotions and grief, and Aspies will see glimpses of themselves in her. Although it focuses on a difficult topic, Mockingbird is ultimately a sweet book about hope.
My daughter loves this Newbery Honor book, because it’s a great story. Rules promotes acceptance and caring as it follows 12-year-old Catherine and her younger brother David, who’s autistic and often acts in ways that are embarrassing to her. What she discovers about friendship is heartwarming, and the story may help Aspies understand a bit how the world perceives kids similar to them. As my daughter says, “I understand her brother,” and she’s read it four times.
For more information and resources on Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, check out Autism Speaks.